For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?
Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich! You have begun to reign—and that without us! How I wish that you really had begun to reign so that we also might reign with you! For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like those condemned to die in the arena. We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to human beings. We are fools for Christ, but you are so wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are honored, we are dishonored! To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless. We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; when we are slandered, we answer kindly. We have become the scum of the earth, the garbage of the world—right up to this moment.
I am writing this not to shame you but to warn you as my dear children.
1 Corinthians 4:7-14 (ESV)
It seems to me that in America Christians serve largely in order to gain for themselves. We shop for the church that makes us feel good, and care little to seek out real opportunity to offer ourselves as servants.
We say “serve God and he will bless you,” and claim that the Bible promises it to be true. Indeed it does, but our idea of blessing and God’s differ greatly. God “blessed” almost all of his disciples, and here Paul talks about the apostles, with the death of martyrs. Even Jesus himself was not blessed in the way that we’ve come to define it.
Not to say that God hasn’t blessed us materially. He certainly has! I do believe that quite often God does bless us in the ways that we’ve come to expect, but the problem is that we feel entitled to it. We should be infinitely grateful for these blessings, but remember that these things are not promised to us.
The ultimate prize and blessing that has been promised to us is eternal life. The life we are called to, however, is not one of materialism but of service. We are called to take up our cross and pour out our lives as Christ did.
To revel in your blessings as though you have them because of your own righteousness is wicked. It is also insensitive – what about the millions that suffer daily around the world for Christ? Are they simply not as righteous or faithful as you?
I once heard someone say that if your gospel is not universal, and cannot be preached to EVERYONE, then it is not gospel. I could never go to China and look someone who is suffering in the eye and tell them that they just don’t have enough faith.
We serve a good and loving God, who promises us that he works all things together for the good of those who are called according to his purpose, but that doesn’t mean we won’t suffer. It DOES mean that we can trust him to bring us through, and to be glorified in our suffering, and that in the end it will be more than worth it.